Maria Middelares General Hospital invests in sustainable transport with self-driving shuttle 'Olli 2.0’
How do you encourage people to use public transport to visit the hospital, even if they have mobility issues or the weather is bad? Maria Middelares General Hospital started looking for a sustainable solution and found it in the autonomous, electric shuttle 'Olli 2.0', the successor of Olli and the first of its kind in the world. Starting from the beginning of September, Olli 2.0 will carry passengers between the tram and bus stop 'Gent M. Middelares - Maalte' and the entrance to the hospital.
The social trend towards more sustainable mobility is clear. Patients, visitors and staff explore different options and come more often on foot, by cycle or by public transport (or a combination of these).
The tram stop is about 600 metres from the hospital entrance. In order to be able to bridge that distance quickly and comfortably, Maria Middelares General Hospital hoped to create a branch for the route, together with De Lijn. Since this has not been realised to date and there are no plans to do so, Maria Middelares General Hospital has decided to take on the project by itself.
The hospital purchased the self-driving electric shuttle Olli 2.0, a deliberate choice for sustainable mobility. Based on the number of people coming to the hospital by public transport today and using the shuttle service, the hospital's investment is about €1.00 per passenger.
Olli 2.0 can be used within a geographically defined zone (here: a low-traffic area between the tram stop 'Gent M. Middelares - Maalte' and the entrance to the hospital) independently and dynamically. Moreover, it adapts it based on detected obstacles and other road users.
Patients, visitors and staff can use the shuttle service on weekdays between 7.30am and 5.30pm. The aim is to extend this service to after visiting hours and on the weekend.
In the initial phase, an attendant will always ride along to fully familiarise passengers with the technology. Olli's operational time will be built up systematically.
Following the tender procedure, Maria Middelares General Hospital entered into a partnership with LM Industries Group. This American provider submitted the most economically advantageous offer, viewed over a period of four years, taking into account the stringent technological and autonomous requirements as well as the safety criteria for this project.
Vikrant Aggarwal, president of Local Motors: ‘We're very pleased to deploy the newest version of Olli in Europe with Maria Middelares, a forward-thinking institution seeking the best experiences for its patients. While Olli can be customised for any customer or campus, we're excited that the first European deployment of Olli 2.0 will provide patients and families with a better and more comfortable mobility experience on hospital grounds.‘
Like any other vehicle, Olli must be properly insured. AG took a closer look at Olli 2.0 for this aspect. Edwin Klaps, Non-life Director of AG:‘The evolution toward more and more safety systems in vehicles and ultimately self-driving cars presents the insurance industry with both opportunities and challenges. For instance, sufficient reliable data, essential for an insurer to properly assess the risk, is still lacking. However, AG wants to continue to play and further strengthen its role in the future's mobility. A project like Olli, which is on a small scale but in a real environment, offers us a unique opportunity to learn about the phenomenon of autonomous vehicles and understand the risks involved. We will therefore monitor the project closely, assess it regularly and, together with Maria Middelares General Hospital, look at how and where we can adjust it in order to limit any risks. We are very proud to support this project and look forward to the first results.‘
The Vias Institute has had an advisory role from the start and can also obtain more experience with self-driving technology through this project. Jean-François Gaillet, Director of Innovation and Technology for the Vias Institute: 'This project by Maria Middelares General Hospital allows us to get acquainted with the technology of a new supplier of autonomous shuttles in Belgium. On paper, Olli looks promising with a number of new features, such as obstacle avoidance. In addition to our previous experiences with autonomous shuttles in test projects, it is interesting for Vias to evaluate the new technology in an operational service. This will allow us to further develop an understanding about the possibilities of these means of transport.'
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